Somebody’s watching me

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, millions of employees across the world have grown used to the discomfort of working from a cramped dining table surrounded by the remnants of breakfast, but at least this was compensated in some way by being out from under the boss’s beady eye. But even that small solace is under threat as Microsoft gives employers the chance to survey their workforce at home.
According to the Guardian, the tech giant has come under fire from privacy campaigners for its Microsoft 365 tool, which ostensibly is there to help employers understand how their organisation works, but can also be used to spy on those working from home under lockdown. The software lets managers see who has been on group chat the most, which employee fails to open shared documents and who sends the least emails.
Not only is this a potential invasion of privacy and likely to lead to widespread lowering of morale, but there are also questions about Microsoft having such influence over the metrics other companies use to determine productivity.
Coincidentally Microsoft has its AGM this week, and is facing a shareholder resolution promoting the inclusion of employees amongst potential board candidates. If asset managers were really considering workplace issues effectively we might see more support for initiatives of this kind. But currently most managers, even those keen to talk about their ESG credentials, vote against giving employees a voice.
And Microsoft is not the only one spying on its employees, as PIRC reported some weeks back Amazon is also keeping a close eye on whether its employees are engaging in union activity. Increased surveillance of the workforce is a worrying trend. If employees feel the need to look busy while resenting their employer, it is hardly conducive to productivity. And monitoring employees due to union activity hardly aligns with the Decent Work SDG.
Maybe this is an ESG issue that investors need to keep under surveillance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *